Day 1 

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. Proverbs 19:21 MSG

Last year was a year of trees for me. I used to enjoy working with wood when I    was younger. I remember a summer when I was a teenager that we decided to    shorten the pasture to keep the animals closer to the barn. We didn’t have fence posts, but there was a decent-sized stand of locust trees. Armed with an axe, saw, maul and wedges, I made around 30 posts. I learned as I went. It was a  great learning experience.  I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
Later on in life, firewood was an extra source of income for our young family. Then came a stint with a tree service company.  So I know the effort that is required to complete the removal of a tree.
I awoke a little later than usual. My wife was already eating breakfast when I went into the kitchen. My greeting was followed by the statement, “the cherry tree came down last night!” It felt like a shot to the gut. I’d already had a plan for the day.
I dressed and went out to survey the damage. Standing there looking at it, I started to get angry. I could feel it almost like a physical garment trying to slip onto me! It caught me up short, I confessed my need for change and asked for forgiveness. I felt His love and presence and enjoyed His company as I spent time laboring once again with one of the refining fires the Lord uses to teach me.

In His service, Sam & Sharon Rakich

 

Day 2

Psalms 40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. NASB

  In the days and weeks following hip replacement surgery,  I learned a different pace. The stillness of the morning hours the 1st few days was a time of being alone with my thoughts. My life was changing in many different ways.

From 50 plus hrs. per week at the factory. I went to  having as a goal getting up and walking for 5 minutes and leg exercises twice a day. How would I fill my time? Psalms became a source of comfort and teaching again.

I waited patiently for the Lord and He heard my cry and met me in my need. He inclined to me and I felt completely at home in His presence.

Would you wait upon the Lord today and lift up the cry of your heart? Will you listen for His response and greet Him? 

  Yours in Christ Jesus, Sam and Sharon Rakich.

Day 3

Psalm 27:5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me upon a rock. (KJV)

      The Psalmist is talking here about a special place our Lord has for those who seek Him. It is a place of peace, away from the sounds, demands, and distractions the world around us offers to us.

     It may be quite tempting to fall in with those around us that are dismayed and without hope. As we take note of negative current events and the deadly virus spreading around this world,  let us not forget we are safe in Him.

     Will you take time today to meet with our Lord in His safe place? God meets you as you seek His presence. In His love, Sam and Sharon Rakich.

Day 4 

1 Peter 3:10 Let Him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lip from speaking guile. NASB 

  There’s a challenge! And what a promise! My first thought is I wouldn’t do it. My second thought is how easy it is to do it. I thought of Peter , how quickly he went from “discerning” to “I got to do some learning”. When I opened the Word I went to John chapter 1 where Jesus starts His public ministry starting at vs. 35. 

  Jesus adds converts starting with two of  John the Baptist’s. Andrew one of the two, is brother of Simon. He finds Simon and tells him ” come, we have found the Christ”. Jesus upon meeting Simon calls him Cephas, or Peter. The next day Jesus led them to Galilee where He found Philip  and asked him to follow. Philip found Nathanael and led him to Jesus. 

  Jesus upon seeing  Nathanael coming said, “behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”  Nathanael asks, “how do you know me?” Jesus replied, “before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

  The chapter ends with verse 51. Jesus says to Nathanael: “Truly, truly I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” What a reward for a man with no guile! 

  Lord, I know how quickly I can speak the first thought that comes into my mind. Help me to think twice before I speak once! Show me Lord before I speak out of turn. Help me to be more like Nathanael in my speech (guileless) and less like Peter(speaking whatever comes to mind).  May I also seek truth as Andrew did.

  Come soon Lord! We watch for your return, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 5

Judges 6:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, so for 7 years He gave them into the hands of the Midianites. NASB 

  The Midianites were oppressive and considerably more powerful than the Israelites. Their armies were destroying crops, polluting water sources, and killing every living thing. When the Israelites cried out, God sent them a prophet who reminded them of what God had done for them, bringing them up from the land of Egypt. He reminded them of the  command to not worship the gods of the Amorites. But they had not listened. 

  There are many gods and not just of the gold and stone kind. Some people worship the human mind and creative spirit.  Multimedia  devices occupy the attention of some, also  sports, games, addictions, can all consume us. Hearts get hard, sin moves in. 

  God used death and starvation to turn the hearts of the people back to God. I submit He is using current conditions to accomplish the same result. Repen-tance! He does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 

  Let’s  see what happens when God uses current events to encourage repentance and change in the hearts of His people! In His love, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 6

Judges 6:12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” MSG

  What a surprising greeting! Earlier in the chapter you can read that Gideon was busily threshing grain in a wine press. He was hiding away precious food from the Midianites, enemies of Israel, whose armies destroyed crops, polluted water, and were starving the inhabitants of the land of Israel. He was fearful and discouraged, and had what we would call today a poor self-image. He considered himself the lowest of the low of his family and tribe. He had called out to God previously asking why the land and people were going through such horrible things. The Lord responded that the people had left him and had chased other gods. Perhaps you feel as frustrated as Gideon. What mental hindrance holds you back from participating in God’s plans and purposes for your life? Are you chasing other Gods and actively  moving away from Him? Do you feel unworthy? Now is the time for change. Spend some time praying, thinking and repenting today, and He will hear your cry.

   2 Timothy 1:7 states: For God has not given us a spirit  of timidity,  but of power and love and discipline.  MSG

  Few of us will have an angel appear in front of us. Yet the scriptures promise us God has a plan for each of us and has equipped us to fulfill those plans.

  Will you take hold of those gifts, tools and plans He has for your life today?

  May mercy, peace, and joy be yours. Jude 2. Sam and Sharon Rakich

Day 7

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. NASB 

   I received Jesus as Savior when I  was nineteen years old. The only  time I had been in church before that was for weddings and funerals. I met a girl in my apartment building who was a Christian and we became friends. I attended my first Sunday school class with her and entered a brand new world. 

  The Sunday school teacher was a guy in his late twenties who was L.A. charismatic. Cool, laid back, and into Jesus. After some introductions and small talk, he picked up a guitar and began to play, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you, Allelu Alleluia! I looked around the circle at this group of people my age, most had their eyes closed and were singing, some were looking around like I was. I stopped on a girl who had this look of joy on her face. After a few seconds I glanced back to the page in my hand. 

  “Ask and it shall be given unto you,  seek and ye shall find,  knock and it shall be opened unto you. Allelu Alleluia.” How like God to put first things first, and did so in a way that captured my heart. 42 years later, I can reflect back and see  times of my life I have made efforts to seek Him, humbling myself before Him, when I have persisted by knocking until He met me, those were the years of growth in a multitude of ways. The years that self-will led may have resulted in growth financially and or recreationally, but it came at a cost spiritually. I’m grateful He doesn’t leave us dead in our transgressions,  but always calls us, and always has since the days of Adam and Eve.

Lord Jesus, thank You for your grace and Your great love for us. We would perish without Your love. You are the Way the Truth and the Life. Draw our hearts ever towards Yours! Lead us on Lord as we seek You. To you be the glory for ever and ever! Your servants,  Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 8

James 1:5,6 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Vs.6, “But let him ask in faith without any doubting,  for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” NASB 

  I wonder what image James saw in his minds eye as he meditated on this revelation of God? He was the brother of Jesus. Was he there in the boat when Jesus appeared to them in a fierce storm, walking on top of the waves? Did he watch in wonder as Jesus called Peter to Himself? Was he incredulous with unbelief as Peter stepped onto the waves and was held atop the surface of the water, then watched Peter sink as his faith dissolved?

  Many of us can identify with Peter through a number of his character flaws. He was bold, brash, stubborn, given to speak quickly before considering the entire content of what he said. James knew Peter well. They spent three years sleeping under the stars, exposed to the elements, learning at the feet of Jesus. All the while the Lord was teaching and instructing them. Slowly wisdom began to grow in each of them. What a wild ride!There were storms, healed demoniacs, the blind given sight, the paralyzed walking, even the dead were raised to life. I wonder how many times they thought they had “it” figured out only to see God’s wisdom was beyond theirs. Through it all Peter’s mindset was revealed at different times. His assertion to Jesus, ” Even if all others fall away, yet I won’t,” was followed by deep despair as he did fall away, and he even denied he knew Jesus.

I believe Jesus gave Peter great grace, love, and mercy as they ate breakfasted together on the shore of the lake after the resurrection. Jesus once again lovingly taught His disciple. Peter did eventually get it and was a leader of the early church. He spoke with wisdom and Godly authority and laid his life down following after Jesus. What a Godly example of enduring to the end, even a death on across, hung upside down.

  Lord, may our hearts be soft and pliable. You are the Potter and we are the clay. Make us into the mature men and women of God you want us to be. May we submit to You in all things. Come Holy Spirit, we await Your revelation! Yours in Christ Jesus,  Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 9

Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted above the nations I will be exalted in the earth.” NASB 

  My oldest son sent me a link to a site where a Christian had posted concerning Albert Einstein. In the article Einstein was quoted as saying,” All of creation testifies to the existence of an intelligent creator, who is capable of not only existing in 4 dimensions, but a thousand others as well. Creates all things and holds all things together.” The article blew my mind as it went from  microscopic complexity every bit as vast and interdependent as the cosmos that stretches all around us, in every direction to infinity. 

  I sat for some time thinking about it. Then sent my son this reply, “Wow! All of creation testifies of an orderly co-existence. Harmoniously balanced within a framework of sustainability. We struggle to live harmoniously, and we affect biodiversity on a global scale.  Wisdom to manage it in a fashion that is sustainable lags behind our knowledge and understanding.” We can see the disorder but seem powerless to change.”

  “What once was a world that we detected through our five physical senses has grown through accumulative efforts of countless tens of thousands of individuals to a data base that encompasses our entire planets information. Where harmony once existed, chaos now challenges. Still the dynamics, of life and death are at work in the universe. We witness the birth and death of stars, the collision of galaxies through telescopes. The ebb and flow of life is there for the viewing no matter which lens we care to look through. Perhaps now as we confront our mortality in regards to the current condition, we can gain new perspective on how fragile and precarious and precious life is.

One of the satellites records recently has shown emissions from our cities greatly reduced by our inactivity. For a few moments the planet catches its breath as we are left with our thoughts, wondering how quickly our world can change in the blink of an eye or in the sound of a cough. I believe the universe proclaims the existence of God. It resonates with a pulse of life that flows through every molecule and atom, all held together in silent testimony. Even the rocks cry out in testimony to a creator of all things. Every now and then He says,” Be still and know that I am God!” And the world holds it’s collective breath. To God be the dominion, power and glory forever! Amazed by His grace, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 10

Luke 12:24 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest, they don’t have storerooms or barns, but God feeds them. And you are worth much more than birds. MSG 

  We have a “bird-friendly” backyard with feeders and water. One might also say we have a squirrel and chipmunk friendly yard as well! We enjoy watching the wildlife through our kitchen window. 

  Recently  there have been two male cardinals flying about chasing each other. It appears to be an adult chasing a younger bird,perhaps a yearling. There was a female hanging around. We figured the older male was trying to chase the younger one from his territory and his mate. This went on for some time until the younger bird disappeared.  We thought about it for a while. 

  It is said the natural world mirrors the spiritual world, also vice-versa. Therefore,  aren’t you glad our Lord isn’t territorial? He doesn’t  tell us we don’t belong here, and please leave. He has a big yard with plenty of resources and room. We have spiritual birdseed and birdbath water! Indeed, the scriptures tell us we have everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter1:3)

  It is time to relax in your special backyard place to meet God. Will you do it today? Meet with Him at the feeder and you won’t hunger any more! No bird bullies will chase you away! He is awaiting you there. Blessings,  Sam and Sharon 

Day 11

Isaiah 42 1-4 1.”Here is My servant whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations.”

2. “He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets.”

3. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.  In faithfulness He will bring forth justice;”

4. “He will not falter or be discouraged til He establishes justice on earth. In His teaching the islands will put their hope.” NASB 

Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah, a suffering Messiah who would establish justice for all the nations. This would come at great personal expense for the Lord. We are all familiar with the scouring beating of whip, fists and the crown of thorns that gouged His flesh and caused tremendous blood loss. 

  Though battered and torn, He kept His entire being focused on enduring til the end. It was His weakest hour, yet He was not discouraged, nor did He falter. The Spirit of God was upon Him. He knew what He must endure to accomplish the will of God.  It was for this purpose He was born, and He faithfully endured to the end allowing mankind, people of all nations, languages, and cultures access to the Father through the Son.

Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the richness of God’s grace. NASB 

  We have been purchased at great cost, and a door has been opened for those who would likewise lay down their lives in service to God and their fellow man. We have been given a free gift of salvation through Christ! That however is but the first step of many in our journey to find freedom from the burden of sin. 

Matt.16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples,”If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. NASB 

  Lord we ask that You would lead us in the way everlasting. Holy Spirit would You teach us how to deny ourselves and pick up our cross each day? We surrender all that we are, and all that we ever hope to be, to receive from You Lord that which we were created for! We eagerly receive our adoption as Your children! Thank you Lord for Your sacrifice, we celebrate Your great love and endurance that purchased us from eternal damnation! In humility Lord we receive from You the gifts You bring to equip us for what is yet to come! Sincerely,  Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 12

Matt. 28:5-8, 5. Then the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know you are looking for Jesus, he who has been crucified. 6. He is not here,  for He has risen,  just as He said. Come, see the place where He lying. 7. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead…” NASB

  Don Francisco was a Christian musician who wrote one of the most moving songs I ever heard in regards to the resurrection. The following are His lyrics. YouTube for the song.

  The gates and doors were barred, and all the windows fastened down.  I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound, half in hopeless sorrow,  half in fear the day, would the find the soldiers breaking through to drag us all away. Then just before the sunrise, I heard something at the wall. The gate began to rattle and a voice began to call. I hurried to the window and looked down into the street,  expecting swords and torches and the sound of soldiers feet.

  There was no one there but Mary so I went down to let her in. John stood there beside me as she told us where she’d been. She said, “They moved Him in the night and none of us know where. The stone’s been rolled away and now His body isn’t there.” We both ran toward the garden. Then John ran on ahead. We found the stone and the empty tomb just the way that Mary said. But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in was just an empty shell. How or where they had taken Him, was more than I could tell. 

  Something strange had happened there, just what I did not know. John believed a miracle, but I just turned to go. Circumstance and speculation couldn’t lift me very high, because I’d seen them crucify Him. Then I saw Him die. Back inside the house again, the guilt and anguish came. Everything I promised Him just added to my shame. When at last it came to choices, I denied I knew His name. Even if He was alive, it wouldn’t be the same!

  Suddenly the air the air was filled with strange and sweet perfume. Light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room. Jesus stood before me, His arms held open wide, I fell down on my knees and clung to Him and cried. He raised me to my feet and I looked into His eyes. Love was shining out  from Him like sunshine from the sky. Guilt and my confusion disappeared in sweet release, and every fear I ever had just melted into peace.

  He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive and I’m forgiven. Heaven’s gates are open wide! He’s alive!

  God bless you! He’s alive, Heaven’s gates are open wide! John 3:16, Sam and Sharon Rakich.

Day 13

Isaiah 58:6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?” NASB

  Isaiah chapter 58 became a refining fire for me starting in March of 2019. I was very familiar with the passage.  The Lord had led me to it a number of times in the past. I had won some victories and gotten some discernment from submitting to it.  So it was no surprise that God would lead to Isaiah again.

  I was perplexed beyond all belief with my relationship with a loved one. We saw each other daily. Our exchanges were like turning your 12 year old son loose with the pickup truck on the farm. Our take offs resulted in stalled lurches or metal mashing gear crunching. We hit every pothole, rut, and ditch in the area. We went offroad so often our engines would overheat from all the chaff blocking air flow to the radiator from the weeds we had run over! 

  My wife had begun fasting from certain foods she enjoyed the month before to help with the situation. It must have worked because I joined her shortly after. I began to pray for God to work with the other person.

  Health issues limit me from prolonged fasting or complete abstention. So I would get up and pray for discernment of whether to eat or not. This set my mind where it needed to be, asking God to direct the day. I would look at each meal and ask yes or no. This went on for nearly 9 months. I was surprised by what I saw, heard and learned. I had never experienced that type of spiritual growth for such a prolonged period.

I saw myself and my loved one buried under a history of generational bondage I saw my heart in the first 5 verses of chapter 58. I needed to change. Verse 7b “when you see the naked to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” My sin nature became manifest as I went through the first 7 verses like a hamster on a treadmill! The more I changed the slower I’d go. My relationships improved with my family and friends but most importantly with God. He took me on an incredible journey of discovery.  God took me to the homeless, the poor and the naked, where I listened and  learned. I saw my own life caught between two places, saw the poverty of my spirit and the effort to hide my sin. Each revelation brought repentance,  release or healing and  eventually I reached a place of peace and contentment. It’s in the presence of God. I have learned to love myself and others with deeper understanding.

You may be caught in the bonds of wickedness like an ox toiling in a field, doing what you don’t want to do, burdened and unable to get free. But God has a plan for your life.

Eventually I learned to drive that old pickup and kept it mostly on the road. Dad followed that up with a jeep and a front wheel drive Austin Healey. I could take the bend by the creek at 60 mph. 62 I was in the corn field. Through it all dad was there. Those were good days, I would love to see my dad shake his head again at my latest exploit. Thanks pop!

  Always have the love of a father that gives room for growth through the experience of life. Be free from the burden of sin.  And stay out of the cornfield, that one gets dad upset. Having fun with this one, Sam and Sharon Rakich .

Day 14

Psalms 92:12-14  The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “the Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him. NIV

     We have many houseplants, also flower gardens outside. This year we plan to grow vegetables as well. One could say we have “green thumbs,” however, in any case, we enjoy working with plants. 

     In my front room, before the south window, there is a large hibiscus plant. That plant is very thirsty! It probably needs repotted with better soil. As soon as it is watered, the soil appears dry as if no water was applied. I water that plant more than any other I have ever owned throughout my career of being a houseplant collector, and I have owned many houseplants! Twice or so every week its leaves fall and become a little droopy as it signals to me it wants water. Perhaps you also have needy plants.

     Upon reading and meditating on the above scripture, it dawned on me that we are planted in the Lord’s garden. He is the Master Gardener that waters and fertilizes us. As I water and fertilize my plants, so also He does the same task with us. Receive the Divine nourishment he so freely  offers! Make sure in prayer that your soil is prepared to grow and thrive.

     Matthew 13 contains the parable of the sower, and mentions different types of soils. The seed that landed upon good soil produced a good crop, multiplying the sown seed.  Lord, we pray that we would be blessed with good soil, not shallow or rocky soil. May we drink up the water and fertilizer of your Word, and produce a hundred, sixty or thirty fold crop! May we be strong and tall as the cedars of Lebanon. Thank you for being our loving Gardener. In Him, Sam and Sharon.

Day 15

Colossians 3:1-3 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. 3. For you have died and your life is hidden in God. 

Colossians 2:9-10a For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10a and in Him you have been made complete… NASB

  Put on the new self. As an amateur gardener I’m familiar with the principal of sowing and reaping. If I want tomatoes, I plant tomatoes. Just planting it in the dirt and coming back in 3 months to see if it has borne fruit is a recipe for limited success. I’m more likely to find a dead or diseased plant than one that is thriving. 

  The basics for success start with knowing the desired variety for specific foods. If I want pasta sauce, I select Roma, slices for hamburgers, beefsteak,  for salads,   moma variety of cherry. There are literally dozens of varieties you can substitute in the above. Know your variety.  A cherry tomato doesn’t work well on a sandwich.

  The goal is a healthy, thriving plant, producing maximum fruit with minimal effort. The foundation and starting point is soil. The soil must provide the proper nutrition and consistency for maximum benefit. A good potting mix, amended with compost and lime is a good starting point. Next to the transplant. A minimum of 5 nodes, or leaf sets should be present. Pinch off or cut the bottom 2 sets of leaves close to the stalk being careful to make a clean cut. Tearing the plant causes energy to be diverted into healing instead of growing, and also gives an entry point for disease. Removing the bottom 2 sets of leaves, allows the plant to be buried deeper in the soil. The fine hairs radiating off the stalk in that area are small roots that will help the plant develop a rigorous root system and give it stability. Next, you want to keep your plant from lying in the soil. Disease and insects will readily attack if given the chance. A cage system works best. You want to promote upward growth, this encourages air circulation which promotes a healthier environment. Remember the goal is to produce the best fruit. The plant will grow suckers that will divert energy away from the main body of the plant. If left to grow there will be more leaves and less fruit. Cut or pinch these off. They can be found emerging between the stalk and stems. Eventually they will bear fruit if left unchecked, but your fruit will be smaller and you risk the sucker becoming to weighty and can cause the plant to split and perhaps even die. Daily inspection of the plant for watering and fertilizer needs is recommended as is inspection of the leaves, flower buds, and emerging fruit for signs of disease and insect infestations. Treat each accordingly to receive the best results. Repeat this process in a disciplined manner and watch as you reap a harvest beyond what you expected. 

  We can learn much by observing the world around us. How like plants we are in the hands of our Father! We have each been hand selected by a Master gardener who knows what we need before it’s needed. Each of us have been chosen and groomed for specific purposes to bear fruit in our own unique way. If we submit to Him and seek Him with our whole heart and keep looking for Him. We will find ourselves in Him alive and growing well. Endure His pruning and recieve from Him watering and feeding. And in due season we will bear a harvest of fruit! Will you allow Him to complete the work that He has begun in you? God bless you as you seek Him! From 2 plants growing in the Master’s garden, love in Christ,  Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 16

Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kill the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”  NASB 

  What an incredible turn of events the disciples witnessed; the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Masses shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Throngs welcomed Him with open arms. The whole city came out to see Him. 

  What wonder and joy must have filled the hearts of His disciples! Jesus had told them, He would be welcomed and then rejected, despised and crucified. Surely after this welcome the other two things could not possibly happen! But they did.

  The heart of men can be manipulated. Even the most resolute can succumb to skilled and prolonged distortion of the truth. Especially when the liar, Satan, becomes involved. 

  Peter and the other followers watched in wonder as Jesus drove money changers from the temple, taught many in the courtyard, healed the blind and lame, and finished the twenty four hour period with an unadulterated scathing condemnation of the religious leaders of the day. (Jeremiah 7:11 and Isaiah 56:7) I believe even with Jesus preparing them in advance for what was to come, this overwhelmed their capacity for understanding the events in true detail as it unfolded. It would take further revelation from Jesus after the resurrection, and the Holy Spirit’s teachings after Pentecost to tie all the events together with Scripture to show irrefutably,  that Jesus was Messiah and fulfilled all prophetic scriptures concerning His coming.  

  Before leaving the temple after condemning the religious leaders, Jesus spoke the words, ” I long to gather you as a hen her young chicks, but you were not willing.”

  Today, near the hour of our visitation, possibly we face similar structures in our churches. Perhaps leadership has opened the door and accepted doctrines that dilute or quench the Spirit of God. Hearts are hardened and wander after their own way, ignoring the loving admonitions of a caring, loving parent. 

  He has told us He would send the latter rain and pour out His Spirit upon His sons and daughters. He has not left us powerless to bring changes  in ourselves and our world. Scripture tells us if someone does something wrong, the spiritual ones should offer Godly help with gentleness.(Galatians 6:1) The time has come to be a voice for change, and become salt and light to this fallen world. (Matthew 5:13-16) Let us gather under His wings together, empowered, ready to bring change, as we await His coming.  Yours in Christ, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 17

John 15:1,2 “I am the true vine, and my father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

     In the book “Secrets of the Vine” by Bruce Wilkerson, there is an exhaustive description of the work done on grapevines to maximize grape production. The descriptions make clear it is not a quick or easy process. It is labor-intensive, hands-on, dirty work.

   The vines are not allowed to grow higher than waist height, approximately 36-42 inches high. The older the vineyard, the thicker the trunk of the vine. The new branches tend to grow downward toward the ground, and the workers stake them upward. No grapes grow on the ground, as the vine gets wet and mildewed from rain.  Are you spiritually wet and mildewed? Allow the Gardener to raise you up!

  The branches also need pruning to produce grapes. An expert pruner works in four ways: 1) to remove dead and dying growth, 2) to thin the canopy of growth to add light below, 3) to remove suckers that take away the energy from fruit production, 4) increase the size and quality of the grapes, to encourage new grapes to develop.  Aggressively applied pruning shears bring quality growth and fruit! Are you allowing our loving Gardener to use the shears? Ouch! Enjoy spending time in prayer and meditation, the Lord will reveal pruning needs. After we  submit, we have something great to look forward to, being of more use to our Master. See Hebrews 12:11 for a great passage on this.

   Lord Jesus, please make us willing to be planted, fertilized, staked up,  pruned, rained on, and harvested for your Glory. May our trust in You, our great Gardener, become greater each day as we stretch our vines to You. In Him, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 18

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat it’s fruit. NASB

  A father’s love. What images come to your mind when you think of your own earthly dad? Are you filled with joy or overwhelmed with sadness? Does regret come to mind for opportunity lost or does it open the lid on a chest full of treasured memories ? Not everyone has had a pleasant experience. For some, it can be a very painful reminder of a time they have tried to forget. 

  How we choose to communicate has consequences. In the past, a wrong word before the king could cost your head. Today, consequences aren’t so immediate or severe, but results can be every bit as permanent. Words bring life or death and a multitude of results in between. Think of hope, healing, and sound counsel, on a positive side along with many other good attributes that build up good character and Godly living. The other side of the ledger contain more selfish carnal responses. Angry dismissive belittling comments usually don’t have healthy responses and can result in stunted or severly damaged lives, if they come from a parent. We eat the fruit of all the years of conversation borne out in our hearts and in turn pass on to our children our own version of that relational dynamic. 

  If you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy and worth, how can you change a heart that is hurting? 

Jesus said, “Are you weary carrying a heavy burden? Then come to Me. I will refresh your life,  for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn My ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”  Matthew  11:28-30 Passion translation. 

  Jesus beautifully portrays the heart of a loving father, providing a place of safety and refuge while nurturing the soul and spirit. Those who experienced this type of love while growing up find this easier to embrace than those of us who have experienced a less than nurturing version.  Nevertheless He says, “Come!”

  Will you come before the Lord today? Will you seek Him beside the still waters? Will you let His Words get down inside you and spring forth new life? The fruit of His words are a tree of life! And those who eat of it will never hunger again. Be blessed in Jesus name.  Love, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 19

3 John 1:2-4, Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is. 3) Some of the brothers travelling by have made me very happy by telling me that your life stays clean and true and that you are living by the standards of the Gospel. 4) I could have no greater joy than to hear such things about my children. Message bible.

  John addresses this letter to Gaius, a man of faith and means. Gaius remains rock steady in his support of the early church. He was  offering refuge to the Apostles and traveling missionaries on their journey, even supplying provisions and money to support them in reaching their journeys end. What a blessing he was to his brethren. He had a heart that continued to grow and give. He probably received a number of letters from John and other Apostles introducing missionaries passing through his area. Many coming back testified of his hospitality and godly conduct. John considered him a son in the faith and a great source of joy because his life reflected Christ at work in him. He was walking in truth!

 Sharon has a picture that hangs in our home that quotes vs. 4, “I have no greater joy than to know my children walk in truth.” We have prayed this verse over our sons since their births. We were not the steadfast influence of John. We struggled to get it right and at times we were out of the church for extended periods of time. We never lost our faith in God or the love of a parent that nurtures, but at times our lives contradicted what we believed. Still inspite of our failures to be consistent our children have come to a saving grace.

  Lord help us to grow in wisdom and understanding.  Our children are a direct reflection of who we are. Teach us how to be steadfast and true, and to love without end, to pray without ceasing, and to be kind and gentle in all we do. I pray they would see our resolve to face our failures and overcome our weaknesses and rejoice with us as we overcome in Jesus name. God is not finished with us, nor is He finished with our children. We get to encourage each other in many ways. We can see the finish line and just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other following after Jesus. To Him be the glory for ever! Yours in Christ Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 20

Psalms 131:1-3 Lord my heart is meek before You. I don’t consider myself better than others. I’m content to not pursue matters that are over my head, such as Your complex mysteries and wonders, that I’m not ready to understand.  2) I am humbled and quieted in Your presence.  Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap, I’m Your resting child,(weaned), and my soul is content in You. 3) O people of God, Your time has come to quietly trust, waiting upon the Lord now and forever. The Passion translation. 

  How like a book our lives are. From start to finish we read like a novel, no two stories the same. Yet all woven together in a tapestry that extends and expands the human consciousness. 

  Through the stages that are our lives we grow and develop.  We are constantly changing, always learning. In ever widening circles the universe unfolds itself til we are cognizant there is a greater entity than ourselves. There begins again the cycle of life, though this time in the spiritual realm. It is a whole other vast untapped universe where life does not decay, wonders never cease, and each day is filled with contentment. Though our bodies now decay our spirit grows more into the image and mind of Christ. Til once again we find ourself like a contented child nestled in loving embrace in the arms of our Father. We quietly trust and await His presence daily, now and forever, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 21

Matthew 9:20,21 Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched His robe. She  was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well”. Message Bible translation

    What does this passage mean to you? Notice how direct were her thoughts; she asked no permission, not did she make a fuss about it. She just touched Him. Since she had suffered for twelve years, she likely had tried everything to become well. Other translations say she had spent all she had on doctors with no improvement. Perhaps she was also weak and anemic. Perhaps she reached out with the last of her strength. Severe blood loss causes great weakness. Some sufferers never arise from their beds. We can see from her desire to connect with Jesus that she never gave up hope. The man that was healed at the pool of Bethesda had been there for thirty-eight years.(John 5:1-9) Do you see a trend here? How important it is to never give up hope! 

     Do you have a chronic health problem not responding to any treatment? Are you estranged from those you love? Do you have bills you cannot pay? Have you felt hopeless about a long-term problem with no evident answers? Have you agonized about a loved-one’s life choices, sanity, lack of salvation? 

    We want to encourage you now to touch His robe! You are that woman and He will heal you. You are the crippled man and He is with you at the pool. Spend time with Him and you will be healed. Take the first steps in faith and you will be healed. Yours truly in Him, Sam and Sharon.

Day 22

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life. NASB 

  I remember the power of those words to this day! At nineteen I had come face to face with mortality and decided I was not ready to die. A short time before that I heard the message of salvation through Jesus Christ for the first time. It had left an impression on me I didn’t understand. I can still remember some of the scriptures that were shared. 

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. NASB 

  I could almost see the chasm that separated me from God.  It was so beautifully and thoroughly explained that when faced with death a short time later,  it was clear that change was needed.  

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. NASB 

  The words came flooding back like a tidal wave, I felt swept away, battered by  choices that had my life at risk. I was not ready to perish. JESUS! 

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. NASB 

  God came into my heart and life that day and I have never been the same. A short time later I found a good Christian neighbor who connected me to a local church. I experienced a radical life change! I turned away from my old life and embraced a new reality.  Old ways of living and thinking were replaced with a new mindset. I truly felt born again. Many years have passed since those early experiences and I’ve needed to repent and confess my sins more times than I care to admit. Each time I have been lovingly received with open arms and welcomed back to a place of nurturing. 

Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. NASB 

  Maybe you find yourself in a similar place where things are old and crusty, or you “feel” overwhelmed by ____ , fill in your own blank.  Would you pray Acts 3:19 and ask for a new start?  He’ll meet you, He has much to teach and as you sit at His feet, refreshing will come. He shares the Bread of Life and gives Living Water to all who hunger and thirst for righteousness! Come! Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 23

Psams 32:7 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. NASB.

Our son has a nest in his mailbox close to his front door.  From the quick sightings of the mother bird it appears to be a Carolina wren. These birds are known to build nests in odd places. She startles easily, when the mail is delivered, a visitor comes or there are noises close by. Then she flaps away, leaving her eggs. The nest is a woven masterpiece, tightly woven with twigs and leaves. Her eggs are tucked away safely to the rear. 

    Let’s think about that for a moment…  We could safely assume since our wonderful Lord hides us away in His hiding place, that He has a safe nest for us as well. Do you stay there often? Do you stay put even when there are dangers and distractions? What takes you away from the Nest, His hiding place for you?

    The wren always returns to her nest, her safe place. Lord, please help us to always return to your secret place of refuge for us! Yours in Him, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 24

God Yearns For His People!

Hosea 11:1-4, “When Israel was a young man I loved him, and I summoned my son out of Egypt.” 2), “But the more I summoned them, the farther they departed from Me. They sacrificed to the Baal idols and burned incense to images.” 3), “Yet it was I who led Ephraim; I took them by the arm, but they did not acknowledge that I had healed them.” 4), “I drew them with leather cords, with straps of hide, I lifted the yoke from their neck, and gently fed them.” New English Translation. 

  What an amazing God we serve. He is slow to anger and abounding in love and grace. Jacob after years of struggle and wrestling with God yielded to His will. God saw His heart, the yieldedness, and gave him a new name and fresh start.  He became Israel, the father of 12 sons. Each of these sons became the founding fathers of the tribes of the nation Israel. God had bestowed favor upon Jacob, renaming him, and as a show of love and great mercy gave him 12 sons to carry His name Israel through the generations. 

  The descendants of Israel were also blessed through Abraham, grandfather of Jacob, God said his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, or the grains of sand.  But the heart of man wanders and seeks new things. God delivered His people into the hands of the Egyptians on more than one occasion after prolonged warnings. Sometimes they repented, other times they rebelled or were seduced by pagan images that allowed them to satisfy the lust of the flesh. Ultimately they became enslaved and in desperate need of a savior.  

  God brought forth a deliverer, Moses. Through his hand, God demonstrated His great power. The heart of Pharaoh was continually hardened by God, so that men would see the power of Yahweh’s presence over the land of Egypt. Moses was His man and Aaron His voice, and the Lord moved through them in a mighty way. Both felt inadequate for the task but chose to obey God and trust in His deliverance. Starting with the staff of Moses turning into a snake and eating the snakes of the seers, to the turning of the water of the Nile and all other fresh water into blood. God proved Himself to be living and active in the affairs of men. He showed Himself zealous through many other signs. Plagues of flies, lice, frogs, hail, locusts, etc quickly followed in succession. Culminating in Passover. When the angel of death passed over the homes and tents of His children Israel. He took the lives of the first born in all of Egypt, including the deaths of countless livestock. The economy was totally destroyed, the crops lay devestated in the field. The living among the Egyptians had been ravaged by boils and diseases. They were dismayed by the calamity that had come among them and fear gripped the entire land. Sound familiar? Sound like todays headlines? Enough, they cried! The Egyptians were finished with the Israelites and the horrible consequences of their continued enslavement. As a guilt offering they gave them vast amounts of gold and silver, cattle, sheep, and goats to leave their land. They were expelled from Egypt.

  They numbered in the millions. They departed from Egypt in a sea of humanity and animals that stretched for miles. It was the greatest exodus the world had ever seen. The Lord led them out and set their course. Through dry and arid valleys with sheer cliffs on either side they snaked their way to the Red sea. It didn’t take long for the grumbling to start. Oh how we love to be comfortable! It would lead them to a confrontation with the army of Pharaoh. 

    What happened next, was an awesome display of the power and love of God for His people. The path they were following was edged by steep terrain but opened onto a broad plain on the edge of the Red Sea. It was large enough to accommodate them all and everything they had brought with them, including their grumbling and doubts. To prove His great power and love for His people, God once more hardened the heart of Pharaoh. The king of Egypt sent his entire army, including hundreds of his finest chariots to wreck revenge upon the Israelites. Grumbling turned to open complaints, rebellion would surely follow. Once more God had set the stage for the spectacular. 

  We know the story of how a wall of fire was imposed between the people and the Egyptians. Then He opened a path through the sea and sent a wind to dry the bed of the sea, so that they would cross over on dry ground. When God removed the pillar of fire which separated them, Pharaoh’s army pursued in all their numbers. When the people and all they possessed had crossed the sea, then the Lord allowed the waters to cover the armies of Pharaoh. Not one man was left alive who had pursued the Children of Israel.

For those of you with access to YouTube look at, “forbidden footage, actual location of Red Sea crossing.” Fascinating and thought provoking. Ron Wyatt was the first to locate this sight. One of two sights favored for the crossing. Divers have located objects that resemble the coral encrusted remains of chariot wheels and axles. Metal detectors ping the presence of metal in the coral. The sea bed in the area is sand. Coral will not form on sand, but will attach itself to wood and metal. The area off either shore is littered with the remains of the army. Many skeletal remains have been found. Time and coral encrust each object, preserving the artifact for millennia. These finds date from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Where the fire burned, the sand was fused together with the rock and is present to this day. Throughout the old and new testaments, we hear, “shut up these things up until the time of the end.”  Do you think we are getting close to the end? God still proves Himself to His people. Many ancient places from the bible have been found and excavated, proving it to be historically true. God is revealing Himself once again, as He has many times in the past. He desires relationship, not lip service. These afflictions will continue until He comes to gather His people once again. Then woe to those that are left on the earth. A time of great sorrow!

  Consider the Israelites to see if there be any sin in your life that mirrors theirs. Our world looks eerily familiar to theirs. We are coming out of our own place of bondage and are being lead on our own  pilgrimage.  We see the same plagues and signs occurring on a global scale. God loves you and desires to spend time with you, and wants to show Himself strong in your circumstances as well. Yield to Him and He shall direct your path. Don’t be surprised if He feeds you manna from Heaven or opens a spring of Living water to sustain you in a dry and thirsty place! The people of God have a Savior to show the way. Once again He shall prove Himself strong in protecting His people. Jesus lead on! On the journey with you, in Christ, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 25

Isaiah 40:26, “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads their host by number,  He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

  How magnificent and complex are the creations of our God! We have studied His handy work since the creation of Adam, each generation passing along to the succeeding generations our accumulative wealth of knowledge and understanding. We have an insatiable appetite to learn and understand things.  Each of the generations have gazed at the stars with wide eyed wonder. Fascinated by the unknown twinkling beyond our reach.

  Time, study, and ever better tools have allowed us to go beyond our earthly boundaries and fly to our neighbors in our own solar system. We have mapped, graphed, and spectrumed to our hearts content. Every answer has led to more questions. Sense slowly emerges from the chaos of  unawareness. We conclude our understanding is equivalent to the ants inhabiting a freshly kicked anthill. We acknowledge there is a power greater than our own but we lack the capability to fathom the depth or measure the height, the breadth is beyond scope and the width stretches to eternity! 

Jeremiah 31:37, “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all they have done,” declares the Lord. NASB 

   He knows it is beyond our ability to fully know as we are known by Him. Yet He is always teaching and leading to greater revelation.  “Seek me and you shall find Me,” “knock and it shall be opened to you,” “ask, and it shall be given unto you.” Will you lift up your eyes to see who created the stars? He’s waiting for you! In Him, Sam and Sharon Rakich. 

Day 26

Psalms 91:14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”. NIV  The Message version states “If you hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble, I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me.

     I read a story recently about a cat that was afraid of a dog. The cat climbed up higher and higher in the neighbors tree. The cat could not be enticed to climb down even with gentle entreaties and kitty treats. The cat remained in the tree for three days, enduring a storm with high winds and pouring rain. Finally the owner enticed the pet down, where it enjoyed the warm dry home, food, and the lap of the owner.

Are we like that silly cat? What barks, noises, and fears lead us to flee? Perhaps we don’t have a treehouse to climb up to, or a cave to retreat into as Elijah did. Certainly we don’t want to compare ourselves with the great prophet Elijah, yet he had real problems as we do. Elijah had just won a great victory over a pagan God and his false prophets, and was exhausted. He had expended all his spiritual and physical energy and was at that low point when fear came upon him, so he ran. 

     It is not uncommon that a spiritual victory precedes a low point; many great men and women mightily used of God had this happen in the Scriptures. Check out the stories of Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Jesus’ mother Mary, and others. It is said that we can’t stay on the “mountaintop” forever, unfortunately, we must descend. 

      Instead of running from our troubles and problems, how might we run toward our great Problem-solver, Deliverer, Healer? Trust Him to show you the way to deal with it, whatever it may be! Proverbs 18:10 says that the name of the Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous run to it and are safe. Pray and meditate upon this and He will meet you there with answers. Do not fear, He will deliver you! In Him, Sam and Sharon.